Providence taps TASER International for police body cameras

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence officials have reached an agreement with an Arizona-based company to purchase 250 body cameras for the city’s police department.

The city will pay Taser International $1.37 million over five years for 250 Axon Body 2 cameras and unlimited data storage, according to a contract obtained by Eyewitness News.

The contract was approved Monday by the Providence Board of Contract and Supply, but still must be approved by the City Council.

“I think it’s a win-win both for the community and the police officers,” Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said.

The body cameras will be partially funded by a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, but the rest of the funding will come from the city budget over the next five years. Pare said Mayor Jorge Elorza has vowed to find the necessary funding.

Pare also said he’s hopeful having audio and video of incidents will result in more plea agreements with suspects, which could save time and resources in the judicial system. He said he thinks the cameras will lead to savings in the police department as well.

“We get complaints against our police officers, sometimes they’re fabricated, sometimes they’re accurate,” Pare said. “This is going to save us a lot of resources in trying to determine what actually happened.”

Earlier this year, Providence police completed a pilot program that consisted of 10 officers testing one set of body cameras for 30 days and another group of cops wearing cameras provided by a second company for another 30 days. The two companies, TASER International and VIEVU, did not charge the city during the testing phase.

The city’s contract with TASER International mirrors the terms of a deal the city of San Antonio reached with the company earlier this year.

TASER International already has a relationship with Providence. The company provides electronic control weapons, know has tasers, to the police department. City records show the company has been paid approximately $40,000 over the last two years.

More recently, TASER International has aggressively marketed itself to police departments around the country who are seeking to purchase body cameras. In Providence, the company lists William Farrell as its paid lobbyist. Farrell is a former legislative liaison to then-Mayor Angel Taveras.

The company’s stock spiked 22% in November, but has dipped in December in part because it lost out on a body camera contract in the city of Orlando, according to an industry analyst.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan